Boys by Girls magazine has become something of a cult. It's a photographic documentation, part fashion and part portraiture, of the modern man. In a celebration of virility and vulnerability, founder Cecilie Harris is passionately snapping her subjects in a candid and unique way. Let’s hear it for the boys by girls!
How did Boys by Girls come about?
It started with a cup of coffee with my photographer friend, India Hobson. We were bonding over capturing male beauty, the art of photography, and photography sometimes being quite isolating. It seemed like a natural thing to work on a project together. Originally Boys by Girls was going to be a coffee table book, but with the feedback we were getting, the project naturally developed into a magazine.
What drew you to photographing men only?
When I started doing photography I was shooting girls only, then one day I got to work with a male model and had a bit of a “why am I not shooting guys?” epiphany. I found it really interesting that when working with males there were less elements to play with; no fancy dresses, no elaborate make up and hair. The simple elements created more of an opportunity for me and the model to make an inspiring picture, and I liked the challenge of having to create an image that was just as powerful but with less elements to play with. Also I found that guys were often much more comfortable being relaxed and natural in front of the camera.
You speak about capturing the personality, do you ever worry that you objectify your male subjects?
No, I would like to think that not objectifying my male subjects is something I am quite good at, and why a lot of models like working with me. I like to give them a voice. Instead of seeing them as just a “clothes hanger” I like to find out a bit more about who they are, what they are passionate about - and then use that to create a more authentic image. Quite often I tend to include an interview component as part of my shoots. There are so many misconceptions about the male model and what they are supposed to be like. They have so many have other talents and passions, and others that have a lot of interesting things to say. I feel passionate about capturing that in images. Including a little insight to their story in an image is a beautiful thing and I like this honest way of working.
What do you feel is special about boys?
I like how boys are often really natural in front of the camera and happy to just “be” instead of posing too much. They like to take risks, play, and like a challenge, which often leads to really natural and beautiful images.
Do you think male photography/ photography of males has changed in the past few decades?
There are so many more outlets to express photography of males today. Lots more print menswear magazines, not to mention all the online outlets we have for showcasing images. The modern young male is also so much more diverse, and society is more exceptive of different types of men, all leading to many more possibilities when doing male photography.
What is particular to shooting menswear?
Less is more? I love the beauty of it.
Do you think the concept of masculinity has changed with the new generation? We've gone from metrosexuality to more of a lad culture - what do you think is the current form masculinity is taking?
I’m talking to a lot of young people, and one of the things I consistently hear is that they are feeling that they have a lot of freedom to be themselves. The rules of what is acceptable with boy/girl behaviour is blending, races and cultures are mixing, and the world is shrinking. It’s ok for boys to enjoy shoe shopping, it’s ok for boys to cry and it’s ok for boys to buy some good old-fashioned candle jewellery if they want. You get my drift.
What do you think is important to capture within a photograph?
For me personally, although technically I work in fashion, I feel it is important to include something real and authentic in what I photograph. For the last few years I have been working on an ongoing project shooting Boys at Home, which I have now expanded to be part of what Boys by Girls does. Female photographers in all sorts of countries are now contributing capturing boys at home, which I feel is an important documentation of this time. I want to enable future generations to look back at what we were capturing today and learn something about the young male of today.
What do you look for when you shoot women? Are there features you only concentrate on when you photograph boys?
Although I shoot a lot of menswear, I really love photographing girls as well. I am drawn to their femininity and gentle movements. It’s always nice to vary what you do, so you don’t become stuck in one pattern.
What's next on the agenda for Boys by Girls?
Keep creating beautiful issues. Don’t lose the rawness and soul of what we do. We recently did our first photographic Exhibition “Boys at Home”, which was a great way to put the photography in focus. The beauty of imagery is really important to us, and is a great way to tell the fashion story. I have so many ideas. We also want to keep expanding with some book projects, which are more likely to take a documentary approach. Something real. This gives us room to capture both fashion and documentary, and keep telling beautiful stories in different ways. One of the overall goals is to capture and document the young man of today, and combining female photography talent across the world to do that, I feel pretty damn happy about.